Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Baseldütsch: A Brief Introduction

"Irene, wi göhn assen", told me a couple of the days ago the lovely three years old niece of my boyfriend. Whenever she or her brothers talk to me in German I automatically tell them that I don't understand so that they feel somehow obligued to speak Spanish at home. "Irene, wi göhn assen", she repeated. I usually can guess what they mean when they blurt something in the German dialect spoken on this area but this time I was literally lost for words. "I really don't understand," I insisted, "you have to tell me in Spanish." And by the third time she realised that I wasn't following at all and then she said that we were going to eat. Oh, wir gehen essen, I thought. How could I have not guessed?

German is one of the four official languages of Switzerland and is actually the most widely spoken with French, Italian and Romansh way far behind German. However, it must be noted that Swiss people do not really speak German but Schwitzerdütsch or Swiss German, which is a collection of dialects that too often are not mutually intelligible with standard German. I studied German for five years and I'm able to understand more or less everything when in Germany but Switzerland is a very different story. Here I can only understand what's being told if I know what it is about, otherwise I usually find it very difficult to follow a conversation. And I'm not the only one, I've even heard Germans complain after their holidays in Switzerland that they had real difficulties to understand Swiss German, especially in rural areas where some people do not even speak standard German properly. Every canton has its own caracteristic dialect and Swiss people can usually tell where someone comes from just from hearing his or her speech intonation and pronunciation. Swiss people really pride themselves on their language and strongly regard it as a unique identity feature of their culture.

Should you ever find yourself in Switzerland  and not able to get a word despite having learnt some German before, here's a brief guide for beginners of Baseldütsch, the dialect spoken in the region of Basel. The dialect might differ from other regions' dialects but you can't go wrong with this basic expressions. You can find in brackets the correspondent expression in standard German and then the translation to English.

Grüezi! (Hallo!) - Hello!
Wie göht's? (Wie geht's?) - How are you?
Gueti, merci (Gut, danke) - Fine, thank you.
Merci vielmal (Danke schön) - Thank you very much.
Adeu (Tchüss) - Bye.
Ein guete (guten Appetit) - Enjoy your meal.

I apologize beforehand for any possible misspelling. I haven't had any formal training in Baseldütsch and I'm not planning to in the near future. Hopefully I'll be able to pick up more words from my everyday conversations. But what I do plan is to polish my basic Russian skills. I've already enrolled in a Russian course starting in September, so maybe in a year I'll be able to finally put more than three words together in Russian!

Ever faced the inconvenience of language barriers? Do you also enjoy learning foreign languages?
Have a lovely Wednesday!


  1. Yo tmb tengo anécdotas parecidas a estas que cuentas con los idiomas, jejej. NO sabía que tmb supieras hablar alemán, guau! Bss,wpa:)

    1. jeje me alegro de no ser la única persona perdida :)
      Sí, estudié alemán mientras estaba en el instituto y la uni. Al principio era un gran sacrificio pero finalmente le cogí el gustillo y ahora me alegro de haberlo hecho!

  2. Irene, I so admire you! I admire anyone that can speak more than one language. You're a genius in my book! I took Spanish in high school, but I just learned what was necessary to pass the course. I know! So bad! I was thinking about getting one of those Rosetta Stone courses. I've just never made time and they can be expensive. It's good to know other languages though. Good luck with your Russian course. You could work as a translator!

    1. Oh, you're making me blush, Kim! I've always liked learning foreign languages, since I was a small child and to me language courses are more a hobby than hard work. I really enjoy them and I think they're a great way to meet new people with similar interests, just what I need right now in this new city where I don't know a soul :)

  3. I have been loving your vacation photos! Wish I was traveling too =)

    My Own Project

  4. I took French lessons a long long time ago. Other than that, I have no experience learning another language! I'd love to one day.

  5. Irene,me puedo imaginar la expresión de WTF? Cuando la niña te preguntó? A mi me encanta aprender idiomas, además creo q no se me da mal pero es cierto q el Alemán es uno de los mas difíciles con los que me he topado, este año mi propuesta es mejorarlo y aprender Francés, ya te diré como va la cosa.
    Por cierto veo q te gusta complicarte la Vida, Ruso debe ser complicadísimo yo intenté matricularme el año pasado y no conseguí plaza.
    Besote y ya os contaré mis aventuras por Tailandia, gracias por tus ánimos.

    1. Yo me matriculé en ruso en la EOI en La Laguna (Tenerife) el año que lo pusieron y claro, como no había suficientes frikis no fue difícil conseguir plaza. Pero abandoné y como es algo que siempre he querido hacer pues ahora me lo he propuesto de nuevo :)
      Mucha suerte con el francés, seguro que te va genial!
      Un beso, espero que lo estés ya pasando genial :D

  6. This is very interesting Irene. I had no idea Swiss German is entirely different from the German language. I used to think they either spoke German or French. I think I mentioned it to you before that I'm fascinated and have always admired multilinguals like you. As for languages, I took evening classes after work and weekends to complete intermediate french. I would love to continue growing in the language by spending ample amount of time living in France. Best way to get fluent is to be there.

    1. I totally agree with you. Besides English, I think the only language I'm really fluent in is Dutch because I've lived for a yearin Belgium and two yearsin the Netherlands. Despite having had less formal training than in French or German, living in Dutch-speaking countries has helped me more than any Dutch lesson would. Hopefully you'll be able to fulfill your dream of speaking perfect French soon :)
      Have a wonderful week, Arni!

  7. Realmente te admiro! Ya me gustaría a mí tener tu nivel y dejar de pelearme con cada palabra y mi torpe cerebro para memorizar.... ha sido un placer encontrarte, querida vecina de isla... te sigo ya para no perderte...

  8. That's crazy how you know German well but struggle so much with this particular dialect. I'm trying out some conversational German right now, but it's going terribly. Might just stick to bad French.

    Hope you have settled in to your new home country despite the language barrier!



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